Movie Review – The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

The Secret Life of Pets
Directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney
Courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 6, 2016

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Several years ago, my wife and I bought our children a toy poodle. The kids named him Butters, but not because he was a dork like the South Park character; this dog was Butters because he had a sibling named Biscuit. Such is the mentality of children, so we decided to go along with it.

Butters was an extremely playful dog, and he would always greet me at the door with growling and barks and several three-foot high jumps. I often wondered, though, if he did this because I was about to catch him in the act of something mischievous upon my arrival home. This got me to thinking: what do pets do while we are away?

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS offers a comedic answer to this question with a glimpse into the everyday life of Max, a terrier living with his owner in New York City. When Max’s perfect world is shattered by the arrival of another dog, humorous chaos erupts. And while THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is not perfect, it is still entertaining and visually arresting.

If you are not familiar with THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Universal Pictures:

Comedy superstars Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Kevin Hart make their animated feature-film debut that finally answers the question: what do your pets do when you’re not home? When their owners leave for the day, pets from the building gossip with their friends, satisfy their sweet tooths, and throw outrageous parties. But when a pampered terrier (C.K.) and his unruly new “roommate” from the pound (Stonestreet) get lost in the urban jungle of New York City, they must put aside their differences to survive the epic journey back home.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is one of those films you’ll want to watch a couple of times, just to make sure you catch everything. Chocked full of crazy animal characters and one perilous situation after another, it is a frenetic joyride into the absurd, and that’s a big part of what makes it so much fun. Unfortunately, it is also part of its downfall.

On the positive side, the film is filled with a kaleidoscope of energetic, off-the-wall characters portrayed by some of today’s hottest talent. Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet do a great job as the main characters, Max and Duke. Likewise, Kevin Hart shines as the psychotic bunny, Snowball. They are supported by an excellent cast that includes comedic veterans Albert Brooks and Dana Carvey, along with Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, and Jenny Slate.

The imagery in THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is rich and vibrant, particularly with the 4K transfer. If you have the chance, I highly recommend watching it this way. The 4K color scheme is amazing, and the scenery bursts off the screen in larger-than-life detail. I love the shots of the city; it is mind-blowingly beautiful in HD.

The plot starts off simple, but it quickly spirals into a chaotic race for survival. The two dogs endure a slew of insane situations, with each getting crazier and crazier. This is fun at first, but it quickly devolves into several minor subplots that do nothing to add to the story. This aspect is the negative I mentioned before; thankfully, it does not detract so much from the film as to force the viewer to stop watching.

Despite its flaws, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is still vastly entertaining and definitely worth the watch. I will not say it is as good as DESPICABLE ME, but the film still has merit. It hits store shelves next week and will be available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD.

MSB

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